Freedom and Responsibility

America’s birthday this month marks many decades of growth and progress, and yet we have a long way to go towards fulfilling our potential.

Viktor Frankl once suggested that in addition to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, America should erect a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Perhaps by this he meant we cannot ever know true freedom until we are willing to accept full responsibility for our actions and our choices.


Photo Credit: Thunderstorm in NY by Marco Fedele

In these times of conflict where examples of negative behavior seem to exist everywhere, ultimately the only person we can change is ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words were to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

In a recent TRP workshop, this idea was illustrated for us by a participant. She shared her O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) story with us:

She had young children and came in early to get work done so she could leave early and spend time with them. However, her manager would typically come by her desk late in the afternoon and “check-in.” The conversations with her manager always seemed to stall her plans and nearly every time she’d be “stuck!” She was growing frustrated. She wanted her manager to change the routine… she wanted her workplace to change the rules for her… She wanted everyone else to change so she could get what she wanted!

Instead, she changed herself.

She slowed down and allowed the mornings to become quality time with her children. Instead of coming early, she would come to work on time, get her work done, and leave on time. When she came home, she was fully present and she didn’t feel guilty about it. She was more focused at home, and more productive at work. It was the personal adjustments she made – it was the freedom to choose how she felt and what she could do about it that made all the difference.

Exercising our power of choice is not insignificant during these times of tension and challenge. Let’s be the change that we wish to see in the world.


Road Trip! And Bonus O-FLAG

We had traveled 450 miles with our three young kids in the back of the mini-van. When we pulled into the campsite a little after 5:00 pm I was worn out. The rustic cabin we were renting for the next several nights was as advertised. The kids ran around, eagerly exploring every corner of the tiny cabin. My wife tried to figure out how to eat dinner, realizing that we had not brought utensils, nor plates, and they were not furnished in the cabin. “I should have checked on that,” I said, a little frustrated that I’d forgotten about that important detail. I began to get irritated with the noise of the children, and barked out, “Keep it down guys!” The idea of getting back into the van and driving ten miles into town for dinner or a grocery store run was not appealing to anyone. Then I heard a loud thump and I realized the kids had discovered the bunk-bed and were jumping off of it. My irritation rose. I felt myself getting ready to snap. I knew that I was about to yell at the kids and make them miserable. I was miserable, and they might as well be miserable too!Playground

Right then and there, I stopped.

I told my wife I’d be back. In the tiny cabin bathroom, I washed my face at the sink. I realized the kids were tired too; they had been in the car just as long as I had. I came back out, determined to put a different ending on this story.

She and I huddled and decided to take the kids to the playground, less than a five-minute walk in this idyllic campground. We decided to let the kids run and then just eat the travel snacks that were left from the day’s drive. I was astonished that the feelings of exhaustion I had experienced so keenly only minutes ago, seemed to just disappear.

We laugh about it now, and also appreciate how simple it was to make a different choice. On reflection, making this choice led to a serious question for me: where else in my life does that sense of irritation sometimes show up? Several thoughts came to mind. In meetings I may ignore the contributions of others when I feel I have been working hard. I tend to shut down or quit when I believe I am tired. And when I think I am “at my limit,” sometimes I feel that I am entitled to being treated a certain way.

I realize now that my irritation that night had nothing to do with my children, or with the drive or anything else. It had to do with the perspective I was choosing, and a perspective that was changed when I was able to view it for what it was. The O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) was about making a choice to stop a reaction and turn it into a response. But it also provided another opportunity for me – a much deeper learning experience. Our O-FLAG’s teach us about ourselves. They give us the opportunity to look inside and in so doing, we can discover better ways to serve our families, organizations, and our communities.


mqdefaultSusan is fun to be around. She works for MEA (MidAtlantic Employers’ Association) near Philadelphia, PA. Last Fall, she got her TRP trainer certification and now she’s sharing what is powerful about TRP for their members in this youtube video. She’s enthusiastic! Watch her video and see if you don’t want to be in one of her classes after hearing her talk about TRP. It’s hard not to want to sign up for the class right away!

Enthusiasm is persuasive. It’s catchy. It lights a fire within. When I hear someone else talk about what they are interested in and they are enthusiastic, I become interested myself.

The quality of enthusiasm seems to naturally shift our perspective. It can take things from daunting to do-able, from boring to fun, and from hopeless to possible. It’s a trans-formative quality that boils down to a simple choice we make in how we look at any situation.

So if enthusiasm is this good, what could be better? More enthusiasm! Here’s a worksheet that is designed to reveal where I am strong and carry a can-do or enthusiastic attitude in life. It also reveals areas where I display less enthusiasm. Can I bring fresh perspective to those areas of life? Can I adopt a more enthusiastic attitude towards things that are perhaps boring, or challenging for me? What would be the benefit of doing so? Download a copy of the worksheet and see what insights can be gained from it.

An enthusiastic attitude is a choice. Some people seem to naturally be enthusiastic. They are fun to be around. Some display enthusiasm in out-going and verbal ways while others are more quiet in their display. One is not better than the other, and the point is not to become a high-energy extrovert. The point is to see where this quality may help me in my own life, and help me be of greater service to others.

Be Mine

Valentine’s Day is Sunday, February 14. This is a TRP reminder to let your loved ones know that you love them. Chocolates, Hallmark cards, sweet posts on their Facebook pages… all these certainly work. One of the best ways to say “I love you” though, is to listen. That’s right, listen.cup_hires

Listening is hard. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey writes, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Truly listening to someone else requires a deep focus on what he or she is really saying. We often hear what we think they are saying, or think what we will say next. To listen requires much more interest in THEM, and less interest in me.
Here’s a cool tool. This simple test rates our listening skills. You don’t need to register on the site to read your results. It only takes a few minutes, and the questions as well as the interpretation are thought provoking. The test will offer some practical tips to increase listening skills.
Listening to the ones we love is a heartfelt Valentines gift. The romantics can do it all year-round too. What if we listened not only to those we love, but to those with whom we disagree? What kind of world would we create? What kind of company culture would we create? What about family culture?
In a rare meeting of talents, Destin Sandlin talks about listening in his interview with the President. Destin is a 32 year-old rocket scientist who happens to run a YouTube channel with over 3.5 million subscribers called Smarter Every Day. Destin interviewed President Obama a few weeks ago as part of the innovative #YouTubeAsksObama project.
In this 8 minute video, Destin talks about what he learned from that experience. It contains snippets of the actual interview and how he decided on which questions to ask. Destin said,

“I could tell him how I think he should run the country, or I could accept the fact that he might see things differently than I do and try to have a meaningful, respectful, intelligent conversation.”


The resulting conversation was powerful. Powerful in the obvious effect it had on the President, and what impact it had on Destin, and now his viewers.
This Valentine’s day, have fun listening. Listen to those you love and to those with whom you disagree. It might just change the world.

Unhappy People

This post is in response to a question from a serious leader. She is all about improvement and bringing out the best, both at work and at home. She says:

I have a good friend of many years. In the last couple years, she’s grown to become a negative and unhappy person. We no longer spend much time together, mostly because she is so negative and there is no longer much common ground between us. If I can change this, I would like to do so. How?

Great question! We asked several people their experience of dealing with similar situations to the question our friend posed. Here are their answers. Any necessary context has been included too.

1. One of my co-workers is a habitual complainer. She is a person who cares about others, just like me. It can be hard for me, and I think for other people to see how inside, she’s a thoughtful, caring person who loves others and wants to see them succeed. I look for that part of her and focus on that. I look beyond the other stuff.

2. I am “friends” with people on facebook who are really negative. So I just hide them and don’t have to see their stuff in my news feed. I do not dislike them but I can choose what I “listen to.”

3. For me, it’s about  being true to myself. I know that Momma loves me, she just has a weird way of saying those three words. The other night on the phone I thought I was going to lose control with every word she said. Especially when I told her how happy I was now that I’ve been taking personal responsibility for my own choices and she said “you’d better get off of your high horse, missy!” It was in that moment I realized there was nothing I needed to do to change my mother. All I needed to do was to be her daughter.  I simply said, “Momma, if you ever see me on my high horse and acting rude or arrogant, will you please let me know? I don’t want to be that way.” For several poignant seconds, there was absolute silence on the phone. My mother changed the subject after that and we had a delightful conversation.

4. For more learning on this subject, consult appendix H in the TRP Participant Workbook (revised workbook pages 80-82).

We’d love to hear from you. What do you do with unhappy people, what works for you?


The Man Who Found Solutions

Saturday night in Rochester, New York, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) presented the annual Visionary Award. Each year and individual is chosen to receive the award. The person chosen is one who embodies the mission of ABVI: to prepare and empower people who are blind or visually impaired to be self sufficient and contribute to their families and communities.

This year’s award was presented to Jarret. Jarret became legally blind in his mid 40’s. He was an ordinary man. He had a good job and didn’t mind working hard. When vision problems prevented him from doing his job, he found a solution by focusing on the things he could do, and not the things he couldn’t. He worked with his employer and stepped back from his role as chief financial officer to take on a role of systems development, working with computers.

He loved riding a bicycle, so he adapted and learned to ride on the backseat of a tandem bicycle. With his son James, he rode that tandem from Seattle to Rochester in the summer of 2001.The next summer his daughter Mary rode with him from Maine to Rochester, completing the final 500 miles of that coast-to-coast trip.

Through learning to adapt and solve problems for himself, he found he had a passion for helping others do the same. He began volunteering with the organization that counseled him, the Rochester-based Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI).

While advising the group financially for years, Jarret became a member of its board in 1994 and was chairman from 2000 to 2002.

This man Jarret, was my father. When my mother received the visionary award on his behalf this past Saturday night, nearly 300 people were gathered together for the ceremony. They gave her an immediate standing ovation. With grace and poise, she delivered an eloquent “thank you” speech to ABVI and those who support its’ mission. And to all those who honored and loved my father.

I give thanks today to my parents who have given my siblings and me a great example. And to my father Jarret who taught so many of us that no matter what obstacles we are presented with in life, when we look for one, there is always a solution.

The Myths of the Jack-O-Lantern

Last night my son and I had great fun carving a pumpkin. He asked why do we carve jack-o-lanterns, what does it mean? A fan of transparency, I told him I did not know. Thus we began to consider, what is this tradition about?

Google returns many prevailing myths about the origin of the modern day jack-o-lantern. While all of them have their persuasive elements, none are so compelling as the symbol we considered of the lighted candle within the carved pumpkin. We like it because it is the most TRP explanation, of course.

No smile is complete without the fire from within. Once the fire is lit, the smile is radiant. Whether the fire is the passion of the artist whose brush strokes add the color to life, the leader who inspires his followers, or the homemaker who creates harmony for a family – no smile is complete without that fire.

So, go set the world a-fire. So to speak. Happy Halloween!

Daniel and the TRP Team